One piece of advice writers get and give repeatedly is “research the markets.” You absolutely should be reading any magazine you’re thinking of submitting to. You want to get a sense of the editorial tastes of that particular publication, because each one has its own style and preferences. But, reading slush for my grad school’s lit mag, I’m noticing something that lots and lots (and lots!) of writers are doing wrong.
I think I mentioned last week that we had an assignment to write a sex scene for one of my classes. Now, I have no fear of sex scenes, but I don’t tend to use them in my fiction very often. That’s because I usually find them gratuitous as a reader. But this assignment was good for me anyway, because it forced me to think about why certain kinds of scenes feel gratuitous.
In response to a bit of homework, I found myself trolling through my hard drive last night looking for examples I have written of a certain type of scene (the kind that involves people using human genitalia in its capacity as genitalia) to see what sort of approaches I’ve taken with them in the past. As a result, I wound up looking back at a lot of outlines, fragments, scraps, and even a rough draft (which is too awful for words to describe) of long-form fiction I’ve experimented with over the years.
Meanwhile, I also added a poll plug-in to WordPress, and I’m very curious to see if it works, especially since this blog ports to several different sites. So there’s only one thing to do. Market research!
I’ve got a professor who is adverb-averse. He’s not alone. “Cut all adverbs” is one of the more common pieces of craft advice I see out there. I’ve not yet had a chance to read Stephen King’s On Writing, but I understand the advice is in there. This prejudice stems, I presume, from the desire to have prose be lean and economical. Think about it. Which is stronger? “She walked quietly across the room” or “She crept across the room”? By replacing a verb-adverb construction with an inherently descriptive standalone verb, you get much simpler, stronger writing.
But by now you probably know me well enough to know that I’m going to tell you that this isn’t always the case. Continue reading